War crimes trial against Stryker soldiers has flaws

In hearings this fall, Army prosecutors, armed with sworn statements about plots to kill innocent civilians, have laid out their cases against soldiers accused of murder, conspiracy and other wrongdoing while serving in Afghanistan.

But the hearings inside an aging brick building at Joint Base Lewis-McChord also have brought out some vulnerabilities in the government's case.

One setback involves the case against Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, a central figure who Army prosecutors allege conspired to plan and carry out the murder of three unarmed Afghan men.

Col. Thomas Malloy, an Army judge advocate who presided over Gibbs' November pretrial hearing, has recommended that one of the three murder charges be dropped because it could be difficult to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt, according to sources who have seen the document that contains that proposal.

Malloy's findings are under review by Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the base's Army commander. After consulting with his own legal adviser, Scaparrotti is expected to make the final decision on whether to drop one of the murders charges, or to press ahead with the prosecution of all three murder charges in addition to conspiracy and other charges.

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